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Cancer Control. 2007 Jan;14(1):7-12.

Aging, frailty, and chemotherapy.

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Senior Adult Oncology Program, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Tampa, FL 33612, USA.



In many cases, elderly individuals have not been offered life-saving interventions due to the assumption that these treatments would be too toxic to tolerate.


This article offers an overview of the biology of aging, reviews the assessment of an individual's physiologic age, and explores the medical definition of frailty and its implications in cancer treatment.


The definition of frailty is controversial. Rather than chronologic age, a more accurate assessment relies on individual estimates of life expectancy and functional reserve, including serum levels of interleukin 6 and D-dimer, the levels of a number of inflammatory cytokines, and the circulating level of C-reacting protein. Decision making for optimal cancer treatment in the older-aged patient benefits from a comprehensive geriatric assessment, a functional test, and a laboratory evaluation to determine a patient's life expectancy and functional reserve.


Most older patients appear to benefit from cancer treatment to an extent comparable to that of younger individuals, and only a minority of these patients should be excluded from treatment due to reduced tolerance.

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